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Before he was elected state superintendent, Ryan Walters vowed to go after the teaching credentials of Summer Boismier, a high school English teacher who made national news for her objection to book banning.
Last month, his administration filed an application to revoke Boismier’s teaching certificate, even though she isn’t teaching and has moved to New York. Oklahoma Watch obtained the document through the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
The controversy surrounding Boismier began on the first day of school. Norman Public Schools, where she worked, implemented a new policy after House Bill 1775, the so-called anti-critical race theory legislation, that required teachers to review all classroom books or cover them until they had time to review them.
Boismier covered her bookshelves in red paper along with a message: “Books the state doesn’t want you to read.” She included a QR code linked to the Brooklyn Public Library’s Books Unbanned website, which provides teens access to books being censored in other states. Next to the code, it said, “definitely don’t scan this.”
A parent complained, the district investigated and ultimately, Boismier resigned. She now works for the Brooklyn Public Library.
The state’s argument for revocation hinges on three books found on her classroom shelf: “Gender Queer,” “The Bluest Eye,” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue.” Twenty other books from the Brooklyn library’s site are listed in the complaint as “books at issue.” That list includes “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Of Mice and Men.”
The education department’s attorney, Bryan Cleveland, argues Boismier’s certificate should be revoked for “promoting sexual materials to minors” and claims promoting books such as “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” is an act of moral turpitude.
Moral turpitude is a legal term for conduct that is unjust, dishonest or immoral.
He also argues Boismier violated House Bill 1775 by encouraging students to read “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi.
On Twitter, Boismier described how she’s been feeling since receiving the revocation notice. “I’m not okay,” the thread begins. Later, she questions what she did to deserve to lose her livelihood.
“I encouraged (students) to read books, whatever books they want/need to read. I mentioned a public library in N.Y. that could help since some stories in OK are now considered contraband. Unforgivable, I know, and apparently grounds for getting stripped of my teaching certification.”
The Board of Education will set a hearing for Boismier, but it’s not on the agenda for the next meeting on March 23. Neither is Philip Koons, the Ringling high school principal and football coach accused of forcing players to exercise naked and using racial slurs and derogatory and abusive language.
I’ll be covering the meeting Thursday. Follow along on Twitter.
— Jennifer Palmer
- A teacher pay raise bill advanced through the state Senate. It now moves to the House, where members passed their own educator pay plan. [The Oklahoman]
- This week’s meeting of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board was postponed to give two new members time to catch up. [Tulsa World]
- The Supreme Court sided with a deaf student who says his district failed to provide an adequate education. The ruling could have a broader impact on students with disabilities and their parents. [The Washington Post]
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